Unfinished

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Mark 6:31b

Have you set goals for 2018? Many of us have. We want to set our sights on what we can accomplish before another new year dawns. All the self-help books tell us to set goals that will challenge us – “dream big”, they say.  I think it’s good to keep reaching, to want to achieve, but most of us will get to the end of 2018 with some goals that are unfinished, unreached. What do we do with that?

Maybe we need a little balance: Striving and achieving, yes. But, maybe more importantly, being and becoming. Here’s why: Some year, we’ll set our goals for the last time and we don’t know when that will be. So wisdom tells me that part of our planning this year should include becoming. Becoming more peaceful and less anxious, more loving and more generous, quieter and wiser, becoming more like Jesus. There will always be goals and plans that are unfinished! If we wait to get them all done before we focus on our personal and spiritual growth, we will never give ourselves permission or opportunity to become.

Let’s  go for it with goals for 2018. We can work hard, achieve, and glorify God in the process. But, at some time each day and for longer times on non-work days, let’s stop doing to spend time with God: talking to him, walking with him, reading his book, singing him songs, listening for his voice. These will open the door to becoming who God created us to be. Then we’ll know that it may be OK if lesser goals remain unfinished.

“To fail to see the value of simply being with God and ‘doing nothing’ is to miss the heart of Christianity.” – Peter Scazzero

 

Why do Christians make such a big deal about the virgin birth?

In the Christmas carol “Silent Night”, we sing about the virgin birth of Jesus. We read about it in the BIble, too. If you have questions about the virgin birth, read my new post titled “Why do Christians make such a big deal about the virgin birth?”

And, please do have a merry Christmas!

https://beverlyvankampen.com/bible-quandaries/

He’s listening.

“Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.” – Psalm 139:4

Our words matter – whether delivered by mouth, text, or email. We’ve all experienced the power of words, haven’t we? They can hurt or heal, encourage or crush, amaze or bore. They can calm an argument or stir up trouble. Words matter to all of us, and, amazingly, they matter to God. Here’s an example:

The world seemed upside down in ancient Israel: Bad people were prospering and were not being held accountable. Malachi 3:13-16 tells us about it. We read that God was angry because people in Israel were criticizing Him. “You have said harsh things against me, says the Lord . . . you have said ‘it is futile to serve God . . .'”

But there were some who saw it differently. Who realized God was sovereign and worth serving just because He was God. They started talking to each other and Malachi says, “The Lord listened and heard.” He goes on to say that God took note that they “feared the Lord and honored His name.”

God takes note of our words. Kind of scary, isn’t it? But not surprising to know that He’s listening. I think the prayer below might be a good one for all of us to pray today:

“O, Word Made Flesh, stand guard at the gate of my mouth.

Be my voice this day that the words I speak will be healing, affirming, true, and gentle.

Give me wisdom to think before I speak.

Bless the words in me that are waiting to be spoken.

Live and abide in my words so others will feel safe in my presence.

Surprise me with words that come from You. . .

May my words become love in the lives of others.”  – Macrina Wiederkehr

 

#words

Have questions about the Bible?

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.” – Harper Lee

The Bible for Skeptics: A Conversation for Thinking People might be great choice for those who have questions about the reliability of the Bible or its message. Answers many of the tough questions without being overly intellectual or dogmatic. Sometimes there is more than one way to view Scripture and this book may open the discussion you want to have.

Topics covered include

  • miracles and resurrection
  • God’s chosen people
  • war
  • ways the Bible differs from other sacred texts
  • the existence of God
  • age of the earth/evolution
  • the end of the world

and many others. The book also includes a history of how we got the Bible we have in our hands today – it was a long process! Can we trust it?

Take a look!

#Christmasgiftbooks #thebible

 

Make it a thoughtful Christmas: Buy books!

I don’t like self-denial!

” . . . the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” – Psalm 84:11b

I don’t like self-denial. It may relate to how I use time, spend money, or express opinions, but most of the time I want to have what I want, when I want it.

So when I read Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), I cringed inside. I wanted to follow Him, but daily self-denial just sounded hard.

Then I read John Piper’s teaching in his book Desiring God, and my view about self-denial began to change dramatically.  According to Piper, the biblical concept of self-denial is letting go of the lesser good so we can grab onto the greater good. When I started to look at it that way, I realized Jesus’ demand for self-denial was for my benefit, not His! I understood that I deny myself, not to make Him happy with me, but to allow Him to do greater things with me. Greater than I can do if I follow my natural instincts.

It makes sense in other areas of life: I choose to workout, denying myself an hour on the couch, because I value health more than rest. I deny myself a frivolous expense because I am saving for something really special later. Spiritually, it makes sense, too. We deny ourselves what we want humanly so we can receive what God wants for us supernaturally – things that are better for us than whatever we give up. Maybe it’s not self-denial at all!

 “To become like Christ is the only thing in the world worth caring for, the thing before which every ambition is folly, and all lower achievements vain.” – Henry Drummond

 

 

Is my way the right way?

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalm 91:1

Sometimes when I pray, I know how I want God to answer. So I’m specific and, honestly, any answer other than the one I’m praying for will not be acceptable to me. Do you ever do that? We sometimes forget that God’s perspective is better than ours! He knows things we cannot possibly know.

Centuries ago, people asked Jeremiah to pray for God’s direction about their going to Egypt. Jeremiah gave them God’s answer: They should stay in Israel where He would keep them safe. Their response? They call Jeremiah a liar! The problem was they were already packed to go before they asked Jeremiah to find out what God wanted. There was only one answer acceptable to them and they weren’t hearing it from Jeremiah, so they were angry. What they didn’t know was Babylon was on the move and soon would war with Egypt and the refugee Israelis would get caught in the crossfire. They could not see at all what God could see clearly.

Sometimes we struggle with giving control to God, trusting His direction. When we pray about a problem and we know what we want the answer to be, we would be wise to tell God that, though we desire to have our prayer answered our way, we are willing to accept His answer, whatever it is. That’s a safe prayer because

  • He sees what we cannot see,
  • His answers are always for our best good, and
  • He walks beside us when we’re willing to go His way.

“What I think and feel as I pray, rather than the words I speak, may be the real prayer, for God ‘hears’ that too.” – Philip Yancey

There’s a better way.

“. . . by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:14

How are you doing on your quest for perfection? Have you overcome that bad habit? Are your praying enough? Are your relationships in order? Are you eating only healthy foods? Do you do enough to help those in need?

Stop! There’s a better way.

Over many years, I’ve learned that, in spite of almost-heroic efforts, I’m not able to perfect myself. That will come as no surprise to those of you who know me! Along the way, though, God reminds me He’s the one who brought me into His family in the first place. He’s the one slowly changing my character to reflect His. Transformation is His work, not mine. My job is to relate to Him: talking, listening, learning, cooperating, submitting. That’s what He expects of you, too. When we do that, His message back to us is something like this:

When I called you, I knew who you would become. I also knew the mistakes you would make along the way – sinfulness, rebellion, bad habits, weaknesses. I never expected you to be perfect, so stop believing you can be. And never forget that My love for you does not depend on you. I love you just because you are Mine – even on your worst days.

God looks on His children with merciful eyes. We are weaker than we want to be. We will fail. When we do, He responds to our cry for forgiveness, cleans us up, and sets us back on the path. He will make us holy, but it’s going to take awhile yet!

“Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved’.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen